| 1 Comment

Steven Johnson weighs in today on the ongoing power law debate:

The most interesting thing to me about Clay's essay -- and the subsequent response -- is that the active participants in the power law system are having a conversation about the distribution and what it means, and whether they want their little ecosystem to look like that.

Most systems that display this kind of behavior 1) don't have component parts with that level of self-awareness, and 2) don't have the opportunity to change the dynamics of the system if they choose.

Many moons ago, I wrote a paper called Discourse and Distortion in Computer-Mediated Communication, in which I talked about this reflexive quality of CMC environments.

Here's a relevant quote from that paper:

The idea of a reflexive nature of social life--referring to the way in which the structure of activity is created and recreated by the very activities constituting it--was put forth by Giddens (1984) in his discussions of social theory. This image has particular applicability in the context of CMC. We cannot study the effects of CMC upon the participants without at the same time studying the role of the participants in shaping and reshaping the context. Because the actors in this process are self-aware, theories developed and disseminated through the study of the medium can result in the use of that theory by the participants to further modify their communicative environment. As Giddens says, "Reflections on social processes (theories, and observations about them) continually enter into, become disentangled with and re-enter the universe of events they describe."

It's interesting to me to see the research ideas that were just beginning to emerge in the early 1990s--as e-mail was taking off, and the web was poised to change our world--coming back again with the emergence of blogs as a communicative phenomenon. I do so wish I'd followed up on those threads at the time, but the reality of needing to finish and get a job with a salary sufficient to feed my kids outweighed following my nose. And in the hustle and bustle of every day life, I lost the threads. Time to pick them back up again, I think. Now that the grant proposal has kick started my thinking and writing processes, I should spin that article into a weblog version, and shop it around...

.: added at 12:40am :.
How could I have posted about Giddens and not included this link?!? Or this one? Shame on me.

1 Comment

Giddens is absolutely essential to this whole discussion because the reflexivity he talks about can be seen over time. Most of the analysis I've seen of the weblog world so far has focused on a single snapshot in time during which the number of connections between blogs are measured. What will happen when these measurements are made over time? Projects like Blogdex and Daypop track the conversation on blogs over time. But imagine what we can learn when we can see the dynamics of influence over time. What would we learn if we were able to analyze the growth of Instapundit over time? After that we need to transfer those same tools to individuals so I or anyone else can see how our own social universe is changing over time.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry published on February 12, 2003 12:17 AM.

academic/disciplinary power struggles was the previous entry in this blog.

ming the mechanic on education is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Category Archives